discoveries magazine

Gut Check

Living Tissue Grown on Organs-on-Chips Mirrors the Human Intestinal Lining, Bringing Personalized Treatments Closer

Illustration: Gary Neill

Scientists at Cedars-Sinai and Emulate Inc. of Boston have created an AA battery-sized Intestine-Chip that mimics a patient’s real gut activity. The technology opens the door to personalized testing of drug treatments for the intestines and other organs, including lung, liver, and brain.

The findings could revolutionize treatment for debilitating, inherited, inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases, such as Crohn’s syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. The chip is lined with cells that replicate a patient’s unique intestinal lining. This allows scientists to study an individual’s biology in a controlled environment, where the gut cells can be exposed to drugs and immune and blood cells. The device could reveal a person’s response to a specific treatment and predict how a disease will progress.

Investigators at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute provided induced pluripotent stem cells—“blank slate” cells created from an adult’s blood or skin cells. They were grown into a miniature version of the person’s intestinal lining—a replica known as an organoid. The team then placed cells from the organoid onto Emulate’s Intestine-Chip. An initiative of Cedars-Sinai Precision Health, the Patient-on-a-Chip program could ultimately link multiple Organs-on-Chips to recreate a range of humanlike biology for study outside the body—and treatment within it.

Disclosure: Cedars-Sinai owns a minority stock interest in Emulate. An officer of Cedars-Sinai also serves on Emulate’s board of directors. Emulate provides no financial support for this research.